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UK cross industry consortium urges COP26 President to support anaerobic digestion and improved waste management in the UK’s fight against climate change

UK cross industry consortium urges COP26 President to support anaerobic digestion and improved waste management in the UK’s fight against climate change

Anaerobic digestion can help turn organic wastes into valuable bioresources

  • Cross-industry consortium writes letter to COP26 President asking for his support towards unlocking the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry’s potential to address climate change and boost economic growth across the UK by transforming organic wastes into valuable bioresources.
  • Companies and associations representing the food and drink, farming, water, transport, gas, and finance industries join the UK Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) and its members in requesting urgent improvements to the UK’s waste management strategy.
  • They also ask for an immediate commitment to swiftly develop a policy framework for the AD sector to enable the industry to thrive and support the UK’s Net Zero and Global Britain ambitions, in particular addressing methane emissions this decade.

In a letter to Alok Sharma, President of the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP26), which the UK will be hosting in November, a consortium of 19 organisations, led by the UK Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), urges the minister to become an advocate for improving waste management in the UK in the fight against climate change, and to support the UK economy and job creation around the UK. This would be achieved by simply ensuring that all organic wastes are captured and transformed into valuable bioresources through AD technology – which gets the most out of such material – in order to rapidly decarbonise UK’s key industries such as transport, heat, agriculture and food and drink.

“The UK is currently missing a huge opportunity to build on an existing UK success story,” they write. “By turning all its organic wastes into bioresources, the AD industry could help:

  • the UK achieve carbon neutrality, including delivering 30% of the 5th Carbon Budget shortfall;
  • build back greener by creating 60,000 green jobs this decade;
  • bring over £5bn of private sector investment;
  • boost the UK’s exports to a $1trn global industry growing exponentially;
  • support the UK’s agriculture sector and food and drink industry.”

There are over 140 million tonnes of readily available organic wastes still being left undigested in the UK every year“, explains Charlotte Morton, ADBA Chief Executive.  “Left untreated, they release methane – a potent greenhouse gas – directly into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change and causes human health issues. Recycling these through AD instead means that these emissions are captured and the organic wastes turned into valuable bioresources, such as a storable, flexible green gas (biogas), a rich-in-nutrient bio-fertiliser (digestate), bioCO2 as well as other valuable bio-products. These products can help decarbonise carbon-intensive sectors such as heat, transport and agriculture“.

In addition to helping the UK demonstrate leadership in addressing the climate emergency, AD offers a huge economic opportunity for the country to generate jobs, level up the country, attract investment and boost exports around the world.” she continues.  “With the right support, the UK AD sector would become highly competitive globally“.

ADBA says that what the AD industry urgently needs is a policy framework that brings together the multiple strands of work ongoing across government into a cohesive support strategy.  The trade association has already engaged with the key government departments in developing such a strategy (see notes to editors), and initiated the launch in June of the UK AD and Biogas Industry Climate Declaration committing the sector to “doing everything in its powers to deliver the greatest possible carbon reduction for the UK”.

With the letter to Mr Sharma, ADBA and its co-signatories seek the COP26 President’s support in unlocking the industry’s potential as fast as possible – thus helping place the UK at the heart of the fight against climate change as well as realise the government’s vision for an environmentally responsible and economically strong “Global Britain”.

Read the letter to Alok Sharma

– ENDS –

For further information, contact:

Jocelyne Bia, Senior Communications Consultant
e: ; tel: +44 (0)20 3176 0592

Notes to editors:

  • Signatories to the letter:
    ADBA; Biogen ; CCm Technologies; CNG Fuels; Country Land and Business Association (CLA); Energy Networks Association (ENA) ; Evonik Industries ; Food and Drink Federation (FDF); Gas Vehicle Network (GVN); GFD; Grissan; Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM); National Farmers Union (NFU); Northumbrian Water; Privilege Finance; Scotch Whisky Association (SWA); Severn Trent; SGN; United Utilities.
  • ADBA’s AD support strategy asks to government:
    • Support AD in agriculture, through the introduction of a tariff premium for the treatment of manures and slurries through AD and promote the spreading of digestate as a replacement for carbon-intensive mineral fertilisers
    • Support the use of biomethane in transport, through its recognition as a leading low-carbon fuel to decarbonise HGV operations, and better incentives to promote investment in the development of new biomethane plants for transport and refuelling infrastructure
    • Support small businesses and community projects in developing a circular economy, using AD to transform local waste into local heat and power
    • Establish material hierarchies for all organic wastes with AD as the optimal recycling technology
    • Target innovation funding to support key aspects of the industry that would deliver a step change in performance, reducing or eliminating the need for financial support for the sector and improving its international competitiveness.
  • The AD process
  • Key facts about AD in the UK
    • There are currently 685 AD plants operational in the UK.
    • The entire industry digests approximately 46 million tonnes of organic material each year – organic material that would otherwise emit greenhouse gas if left untreated in landfill.
    • An estimated 16 TWh of biogas is produced each year by the AD industry – this green gas is either used to generate electricity and heat via a combined heat and power (CHP) unit or upgraded to biomethane and injected directly into the national gas grid for heat and transport.  This is enough to heat 1.3 million UK homes.
    • The industry currently delivers 1% greenhouse gas savings in the UK every year but could increase this to 6% by 2030 with the strategy proposed.
    • An estimated 4,800 people are currently employed in the AD and biogas industry in the UK
    • Fully deployed, by 2030, the UK AD and biogas industry is expected to:
      • create 30,000 direct and 30,000 indirect jobs.
      • save the UK 27mt of CO2, equivalent to taking 1/3rd of all cars off the road, by 2030.
      • heat 6.4 million UK homes or fuel 97% of the UK’s HGV fleet with the 8 billion m3 of biomethane generated.
  • About ADBA
    The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) is the trade association for the UK anaerobic digestion (AD) and biogas industry.  ADBA’s vision is to see all organic wastes captured and recycled through AD and complementary technologies to realise the full potential of such resources to help the UK achieve its emissions targets and other policy goals, creating a truly circular economy.
  • ADBA research
    Biomethane: the pathway to 2030 (2019)
    Biomethane: fuelling a transport revolution (2021)
    Biomethane and hydrogen: two green gases, one future (2021)


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